Matthias bounded up the mossy hill towards the cave. It had been six years since he had last seen his master. He had often found Aupta meditating in the cave when he was her student. He could picture her perfectly, curly red hair, a yellow tunic, her silver sword balanced across her knees.
There was a tiny girl inside the cave, about four or five years old. Her hair was pulled up in a cloth knot, and her bangs were cut bluntly along her forehead. She wore a white slip.
He bowed. “I am looking for Aupta.”
“Matthias.” she said his name, rolled it over in the mouth of the cave. Her little feet were bare on the stones. One of her knees was skinned and bleeding.
Matthias held his breath and counted the names of the planets he had visited silently. The little girl waited. Finally Matthias spoke. “Aupta?”
“I am Aupta. I am Auptas daughter Rille. We exist as one.”
Matthias gripped the handle of his sword. “Then she is dead.”
“The body of Aupta is in the mountain. I am her life now. I am the life of her daughter. We are merged, we are one.”
â€œTake me to her.â€
â€œYou are with her.â€ The girl shrugged, in the way little girls seldom do. â€œI can take you to where the body is marked.â€
They walked over the mossy mountain. There was a cherry tree weeping leaves into the soft wet breeze. The petals clung to Matthiasâ€™s dark cloak. There was a mound of stones at the top of the hill. Matthias knelt beside it and touched his fingers to his head.
â€œShe isnâ€™t there.â€ said Rille. â€œAupta is with me.â€
â€œHer memories are with you. Aupta is dead.â€
â€œYou were always my most frustrating student.â€ said Rille and Matthias turned around. The girls face was wet with mist.
â€œI was never your student.â€
The little girl grinned. She was missing a tooth. â€œCome at me Matthias.â€
â€œI donâ€™t attack children.â€
â€œYou were always a prude.â€ She sighed. â€œYou need to know who I am. You must know, so that you can know yourself.â€
â€œI donâ€™t want to play these games.â€
â€œThis isnâ€™t a game. This is who I am now Outlaw Matthias.â€
â€œI am not an Outlaw any longer.â€
â€œYou will always be an Outlaw.â€ said the girl. â€œ The ship you landed at the temple was stolen, your sword was taken in a duel. You are a thief, a deceiver. Your father was an Outlaw. You are an Outlaw too.â€
Matthias whirled around â€œDonâ€™t you dare.â€ he said, coming towards her. â€œDonâ€™tâ€™ you dare provoke me. You left me! You left me and died and I canâ€™t follow you!â€ He brought his hands down to the girl. â€œYou are a ghost!â€
Rille swept her tiny foot around his ankle and pulled his arm. Matthias lost his footing on the wet moss and slammed hard into the ground. He lay on the ground, looking at the bright grey sky. Rille leaned over him, her hair falling forward.
â€œIâ€™m still your Master Matthias.â€
The mist fell on Matthiasâ€™s face. â€œYou are still my Master.â€ He said.
â€œMatthias. I had to go. My time had come and gone. Not even mountains live forever. All must change.â€ She turned around towards the rocky path down the mountain. â€œLetâ€™s go back.â€ she said.
Matthias followed her down the mountain. Her movements were strange, graceful in her leaps and fumbling in her landings. She stumbled on the slick rocks and blinked back tears. She pounded a tiny fist on the rocks, and pushed herself up.
â€œThis body. It doesnâ€™t always do the things I remember.â€ she said, staring at her scratched hands. Matthias leaned down and opened his arms. His master allowed him to lift her up, to hold the part of her that was a child. They went back to the temple together.